2018 Faculty/Staff Summer Reading Favorites

Summer brings an opportunity to read books from outside our professional areas of focus. For this issue of Campus Connections, faculty and staff were asked to share some of their favorites from summer 2018. (Links indicate books available in Carlyle Campbell Library)

Laura Davison, Dean of the Library
I’ve been re-reading some of my collection of Robin McKinley books. McKinley can be considered a writer of young adult fiction. She won a Newberry award for Hero and the Crown. My love of her writing began with Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast. Her central characters are usually young women who show strength and independence while facing the challenges presented by the narrative. The settings are often retold fairy tales or fairy-tale-like.

Jeff Waller, Head of Research and Instruction
I read Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, one of those novels for which a simple plot summary (the devil and his minions wreak havoc in early 20th century Russia) is woefully inadequate.  It’s a multi-layered blend of magic realism, political satire, and vivid storytelling, with an unconventional take on Pontius Pilate and the crucifixion of Jesus interwoven with tales of ordinary Russian citizens and their encounters with the aforementioned minions.  And it even inspired the Rolling Stones’ classic Sympathy for the Devil!

Monica Borden, Collections and Web Support Associate
I have been re-reading the Louise Penny series of mysteries with Inspector Armand Gamache as the main character. Each book has its own murder mystery plus a storyline that is continued and developed throughout the series. The characters are well developed throughout the series also. I missed them, so I am re-reading them.

CamiAnne Gentry-Berreth, Technical Services Librarian
Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein discusses the girly girl princess culture of young girls growing up in modern times. The book brings up lots of interesting aspects to think about like marketing to young girls (and boys) and how it may influence their impressionable young lives. It is a very insightful and deeper look into something that seems superficial and avoidable but is really inescapable.

Carmen Christopher, Learning Center Director/ Assistant Professor of English
I would recommend The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer.  You learn that you are not a failure for asking for help and that we all crave a connection.

Amanda Sullivan, Research and Instruction Librarian
I love reading books before the movie comes out, so this summer The Wife by Meg Wolitzer, was one my list. The movie stars Glen Close and it was hard not to see her as I reading. However, since she is one of my favorite actresses, I ended up being okay with it. If you like Meg Wolitzer’s work, this book will delight you if you haven’t read it yet. Although you can see the twist coming from a mile away, the prose is classic Wolitzer, filled with biting humor and all too real flawed characters. I also suggest The Interestings by her which is another fabulous read that deserves a movie too. I haven’t read her new one yet, The Female Persuasion, but the library got it in this past summer so I’m looking forward to checking it out.

I’m also a sucker for a good New York story and we got in two novels that deliver on that front. The Futures traces the lives of a couple as they graduate Yale and then move to New York City. The characters encapsulate the naiveté and hardships of the young as they become adults. The novel She Regrets Nothing follows Laila Lawrence on her quest to take back what she feels is rightfully hers. While you will definitely regret many of her actions, you won’t regret reading her story as it exposes the dark aspects of wealth and family bonds.

Jackie Law, Library Administrative Assistant
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch,  Michael Martchenko (Illustrator) was my favorite. Recommended by Traci Stewart Johnson, this is literally less than a  10 minute read and is wonderful.

The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict by The Arbinger Institute
A gift from a dear friend, this book was not what I expected and such an amazingly healing help to my life.

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama XIV,  Desmond Tutu, Douglas Carlton Abrams. So uplifting that I both read AND listened to this book and then gave it as a graduation gift.

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor. I listened to on audio book on the recommendation of Mary Johnson, as part of a fuller understanding of some of the concepts we embrace as “wellness ambassadors” not only on campus, but everywhere we go.

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams. I enjoyed listening to this, but part way through realized how much better to jump into nature and experience it fully.

Professor of Sociology Lori Brown
Over this summer I read The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael Twitty and A Chinaman’s Chance: One Family’s Journey and the Chinese American Dream by Eric Liu. Twitty’s book really made me think about how much food, race and culture are interconnected and I was very impressed with the author’s desire to be authentic in the ways that he researched and cooked foods created by his ancestors who were white, black, and Native American. In Liu’s book, he said something very interesting… that “America makes Chinese Americans, but China does not make American Chinese…Imperfect as our union remains, the notion that an immigrant from China might claim Americanness is not only not foreign here; it is the point of here… Few things are more American than a Chinese American dream.”  Beautiful book about what it means to be American in a time when we all seem to be pulled every which way.

Tracy Knight, School of Business
Two new novels I read this summer that are wonderful are Southernmost, by Silas House and Promise, by Minrose Gwin.

Bianca Diaz, Admissions Recruitment Assistant:
Circe, by Madeline Miller

Alicia Castadonte, Accounting Compliance Specialist:
Killers of the Flower Moon:  The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, By David Grann

Rachel Findley, Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) Director:
Strangers in Their Own Land.

Assistant Professor of Sociology Kris Macomber:
American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus,
 by sociologist Lisa Wade.

Professor of Human Environmental Sciences Deborah Tippett:
I highly recommend Varina by Charles Frazier, which tells the story of Varina Howell Davis, the much younger wife of Jefferson Davis and the first lady of the Confederacy.  It is told from the perspective of a series of conversations with a middle-aged black man, whom she rescued as a young child from the streets of Virginia and educated him with her children until her arrest as she was escaping the end of the war and had to send him away for his own safety.  She recounts her past, her education, her marriage, her role as a senator’s wife in Washington, her travels, and her troubled marriage and life.  Frazier writes her story with sensitivity and grace.

Professor of English Laura Fine:
My (major male author!) summer reading:
War and Peace, Tolstoy
The Wings of the Dove, James
Maurice, Forster
Tess of the D’urbervilles, Hardy

Professor of Dance Alyson Colwell-Waber:
The Patron Saint of Liars, by Ann Patchett
Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
A Higher Loyalty, by James Comey

Garry Walton, Professor of English, shares two stories that students and faculty in the London study abroad program experienced this summer and would recommend that Meredith readers seek out.

This summer in London we have seen two plays that totally impressed both faculty and students. One debuted in the New York theatre where Prof. Rodgers’ son Chip helped to devise its initial staging in 2014; it has recently been remounted in London to rave reviews. Called An Octoroon, and playing at the National Theatre, it is only available as a script. Prize-winning young author Branden Jacobs-Jenkins reconceives and retells a story of race relations in America first crafted by 19th century dramatist Dion Boucicault around 1860, when he was the most prominent, prolific and popular playwright in New York and London.

The other was first an idea (by Siobhan Dowd), then a novel for young people (by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Jim Kay and published in 2011), then a film (2016), and finally a powerful stage production that virtually every student studying in London has seen this summer. Called A Monster Calls, it is the story of a young 13-year-old boy dealing with his potential separation from both parents, the bullying he experiences at school, and how he manages to cope with so much trauma at such a young age.

Melyssa Allen

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